In last-minute amendment, Senate moves to block cities from regulating ATVs

Until Tuesday night, HB146 was just about food trucks, limiting Utah cities’ ability to regulate how mobile commercial kitchens operate.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) Several off-road utility terrain vehicles (UTVs) motor up Sand Flats Road towards the Sand Flats Recreation Area trail, located just 4 miles from downtown Moab, Feb. 19, 2021.

Until Tuesday night, HB146 was just about food trucks, limiting Utah cities’ ability to regulate how mobile commercial kitchens operate.

But in the closing days of the legislative session, the bill was expanded so that it would block cities from imposing any “additional” rules on businesses that rent or sell all-terrain vehicles, including side-by-sides, or UTVs, that are proliferating across the state.

The amendments were inserted by Sen. Curtis Bramble, R-Provo, as the bill was being debated on the Senate floor Tuesday — after the bill had undergone hearings in House and Senate committees.

They appear to be a shot at Moab and Grand County, whose elected leaders have imposed rules on the use of ATVs on city streets in response to residents’ complaints about the growing noise and emissions. Moab streets have become crowded with these vehicles since Utah enacted laws allowing them as long they are equipped with turn signals, lights and other devices making them “street legal.”

“If they want to impose a sanction for noise or speed, there are laws under our traffic code that allow them to do that,” Bramble said Tuesday on the Senate floor. “The business license registration is not the place to try to impose a whole new vehicle regulatory structure, inspection structure, or noise structure. We have laws that control what is required for a street legal vehicle.”

The revised bill prompted a plea from Grand County Attorney Christina Sloan to House Speaker Brad Wilson, asking him to prevent the House from concurring with what the Senate passed.

“The amendment is targeted at us, but it is very broad and applies to all counties and municipalities. It is also an illegal restraint on county and municipal constitutional police power,” Sloan wrote. “We are the only area in the state where ATVs must drive through residential areas and on residential streets to get to our most popular trails. And the noise created by ATVs is magnitudes larger than Jeeps and trucks — especially in this narrow valley surrounded by towering, reverberating red rock walls.”

The amended bill, which passed the Senate 20-4, would bar cities and counties from enacting noise restrictions targeting ATV businesses. It would specifically prohibit them from requiring such businesses to undergo any additional inspection; registration or license plate requirements; requiring any equipment modifications on “street legal” ATVs; and limiting the number ATVs business can rent.

And cities would not be able to revoke or refuse to renew business permits based on a traffic violation by a customer.

Grand County’s ATV regulations enjoy broad support across the political spectrum and business community, according to Sloan.

“Under the Traffic Code, we can’t ‘regulate or prohibit’ ATVs on our streets and roads,” Sloan wrote Wilson, “but under the Utah Constitution, we can regulate business activity that infringes on the health and welfare of our residents. And we have done that in a reasonable way.”

She said Moab’s ATV business have so far cooperated with officials’ requests.

They “have, in large part, turned over their fleets to quieter models,” Sloan wrote, “and have doubled-down on education of their clients to emphasize how serious the issue of noise in our residential areas.”

As originally proposed by Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R-Clearfield, HB146 was limited to food truck regulations. It would block cities from imposing licensing fees that exceed the actual cost of processing the permits; from requiring the vendor undergo criminal background checks; from requiring compliance with zoning ordinances; and from regulating the size of the food trucks. Cities would also be obligated to recognize business licenses held by food trucks that were issued by any other political subdivision in Utah.

Under Brambles amendments, HB146 would block cities from requiring either food trucks and ATV businesses to make employees complete any training beyond what is required by the state and from requiring them to disclose financial information, inventory, or proprietary business information.

The bill must now be squared with the food-truck-only version passed by the House before it can be sent to the governor.

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